ZB: That’s the guy in the book from Vancouver. He says that while he wants men to feel comfortable as stay-at-home dads, when he sees that guy at the playground at noon on a weekday, he’s haunted.
HR: I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care, I care.
SM: I’m one of these guys in a way: Five years ago, I gave up a tenure-track professorial job in New York because my wife got a job in Toronto. It never bothered me at all. And no one bothered me about it. I never got a jokey remark. Everyone understood that, when you’re living in a world where people have jobs in different cities and things are very insecure, the traditional arrangements in so many ways are just gone.
Also, my mother is a physician, so it was never surprising to me that a woman would have power. I loved everything about this book. My problem really goes back to the title because I don’t think it is the end of men – I kind of think it’s the beginning of men.
HR: Because I’m a woman, I feel that’s maybe condescending for me to say. But you can say it.
SM: There is one idea of masculinity – your evidence is pretty unequivocal – that’s doomed. The kind of men who think that being a nurse is embarrassing are not going to make it. They are going to hit rock bottom and have to re-evaluate their morals and their values, and that’s entirely a good thing. I mean, let’s get back to men, Gregory Peck maybe, who like to know things, are honest and have integrity. Let’s go back to that kind of masculinity.
HR: Yes, the key is now for men to redefine what it means to be a good man. There seems to be some block between what they are actually doing day to day – taking care of kids, for example – and how they think of themselves. It needs to become acceptable for them to say, “Yes, I’m an involved dad, that’s what a good man does.”
SM: I compare your book to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique in a way because the answer ultimately is cultural.
HR: Absolutely. That’s why I also looked at women and violence too.
ZB: You point to some startling numbers that suggest arrests of women are rising, while violent crime perpetrated by men – including rape – is dropping. You raise the “unsettling possibility” that the shift in gender roles may see women turning violent, with women acting more like stereotypical men.
SM: Yes, I mean this entirely as a compliment, but it seems to me like you don’t play at political correctness.
HR: The rape stats are from a report released by the White House. A lot of feminists were unhappy about that report because it makes it seem like rape is not a problem. It’s still a big problem. But as women have more economic power and are are less dependent on men, it seems logical that you would get less assault.
SM: Yes, your material on violence, and also the “hook-up” culture, or culture of casual sex, among younger women is fascinating.
HR: Yes, the economy changes and culture changes too – even the way women think about sex and early relationships. Young women are in some ways more vulnerable because hook-up culture is more crude, but they just have so much other stuff going on. They’re ambitious and raring to go, and so relationships are a smaller part of their psyche.
ZB: Yes, you claim that in hook-up culture, guys are deemed the new ball and chain by women focusing on their studies and careers. Still, one of the young women you interviewed says she wishes some guy would just take her out for a frozen yogurt.
HR: I don’t think girls are super-delighted with a world in which men can have sex instead of intimate relationships and that’s completely fine. On the other hand, nobody would trade the freedom that gives women. It’s much more dangerous to have an overly furious suitor who really wants to get married.
ZB: Speaking of marriage, you write about what you call “the seesaw” marriage, where partners take turns being providers – and taking on domestic responsibilities. But then you interview Stephen and Sarah in Pittsburgh: She’s got the big law-firm job, then comes home to launder the dirty cloth diapers and cook ... and she’s seven months pregnant. He’s a “mediocre house-dude” going to law school. Something isn’t working there.